Of the four gospels of the New Testament, John’s gospel stands apart from the other three in approach, content and style. John includes an account of Jesus coming into the world but approaches it in a very different way to the other gospels.
This is a quick summary of how John describes the story of Jesus coming into this world:
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2 ESV)
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9 ESV)
“And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 ESV)
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18 ESV)
John approaches the story of Jesus entering the world by connecting Him to the idea of “Logos”. Most Bibles translate this Greek word as “Word”… “In the beginning was the Word“. This idea of a Word becoming flesh feels a bit too abstract for it to make sense to us. We don’t have a framework in our thinking that can easily translate a ‘word’ into a person. But this is not a problem with John’s approach, but more a limitation of translation.
It isn’t in any way inaccurate to translate the word ‘logos’ as ‘word’ but in doing so it misses the key understanding of what John’s mainly Greek audience would have understood by ‘logos’, and especially when referring to THE Logos.
John’s audience would have understood him to be referring to the underlying, underpinning, foundational basis of everything; the life, power and wisdom of everything and behind everything.
We can get closer to this way of understanding if we consider terms we encounter everyday: biology, anthropology, archaeology, technology, theology…
The ‘logy’ part comes from the root word ‘logos’. These words refer to a study of something through which we discover the underlying principles – the ‘word’ on the subject – and attain knowledge of it through study, analysis and experimentation.
So when John describes Jesus as THE Logos, he is saying that Jesus is the ‘logy’ behind all other ‘logies’.
John is describing to his Greek audience that the mystical source of all things – THE Logos – is none other than a man, Jesus of Nazareth. The Logos has taken on flesh and come to live amongst us!
All other ‘logies’ root themselves in what we can discover and learn through scientific analysis, rigour and experimentation.
But God cannot be approached in this way, and so even ‘theology’ becomes somewhat redundant because God can’t be defined by systems or systematics, however good a job we’ve done in trying.
To have any hope of understanding God, science and thought must give way to the simple reality of THE Logos Himself coming into the world. ‘What’ must give way to ‘who’.
A simple scanning of the stories and words of Jesus in the gospels would show that he was less interested in talking about doctrine and analysis and more interested in establishing relationships. John, the beloved disciple, got this and so his gospel is built around a series of conversations which address matters of the heart and relationships.
In John’s gospel the ‘signs’ (miracles) are much more than a display of Jesus’ power. Every sign challenges our understanding of the world AND of God.
Jesus has come as THE Logos to bring to us the power, wisdom and life behind all things, but He has brought these things in Himself; NOT as a philosophy or science or even religion. Jesus never set out to establish a new religion but to invite people into a relationship; to follow him wherever they are, whatever they’ve done, and whoever they think they are.
John’s gospel shows us this in a number of ways.
In one of Jesus’ conversation in John’s gospel He is speaking to Nicodemus, a religious leader who had the equivalent of several PhD doctorates attached to his position.
They are conversing Jew to Jew, Rabbi to Rabbi, and whilst Nicodemus is looking for some form of validation or sign-up from Jesus to his pharisaic religious persuasion, Jesus responds out of left field with a completely different paradigm.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
The thing about love is it doesn’t sit well in the mind and it’s almost impossible to approach scientifically. You may be able to understand certain principles and observable patterns relating to it, but there’s no way that love can be fully understood apart from in an exchange of giving and receiving it. Love is intrinsically and essentially relational; not rational, and rarely reasonable.
If Jesus is revealing his ‘theology’ then it’s no more complicated than “God is love” and Jesus has come to show us this and to invite us to know – as an experience, not intellectually – that God loves you with an everlasting love.
No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. No pre- or post- conditions. God loves you because He is love, and because you were made for that love and to experience it.
This Advent may your ‘logies’ give way to THE Logos.
May you know that THE Logos has come into the world to transcend our knowledge, science and reason with his everlasting love.
May you know that he has come to have a relationship with you and to bring you home to be with the Father.